19 August 2009

Lough Currane to Sneem Hike

This is one of my favourite pieces of the Kerry Way – a little undiscovered gem!

Leave your car just outside Waterville at the top of Lough Currane, where the marked way leaves the road and heads south.

The rocky path meanders through small fields and climbs steeply to the Windy Gap, where a little crevice cuts through the eastern flank of Eagle’s Hill. The view from the Windy Gap is really and truly breathtaking. One of my best memories of hill walking is reaching this high saddle at 4am on a September morning and sitting down to marvel at the rising sun’s glistening rays illuminating the Caha mountains of Cork, Kenmare Bay and the peaceful Cove Harbour, with its many splintered headlands…

Descending the Windy Gap you’ll pass St Crohan’s Well on your left. According to local expert, Sean O’ Suilleabhain, this well was once used for curing eye ailments!

A delightful green road stretches downhill before you for 3km, although in places the encroaching bog is beginning to claim the road. It’s thought to have once been a butter and farming road. Rumours stir that Daniel O’ Connell’s smuggler uncle, ‘Hunting Cap’ O Connell used this trail in the dead of night to distribute his smuggled alcohol and tobacco far and wide. As his empty boats departed Derrynane Bay, heading overseas for more counterfeit, he used to smuggle wealthy Irish teenagers out of Ireland for college education. This was how Daniel O’ Connell was able to leave the country and receive his education in France.

At the grassy junction of Camomile Corner, take a left for Sneem. Looking back uphill you may see the ruins of old copper mills, last mined in 1900. The ancient living quarters of St. Crohan, a damp dripping cave is nearby the mines.

The Kerry Way now meanders along through farmland, over little stiles and under thick fuchsias. You’ll pass a ruined church and graveyard; further on there’s a 2km detour up to Staigue Fort, thought to date back to about 500 BC.

You climb through a little pass at Ardmore and another at Esknaloughoge, before descending into a thick dark pine wood, where all sounds are muffled and the forest floor always seems to be dry, no matter how hard it rains.

5km of relaxing forest roads and country lanes lead past the brightly painted Garda cottage, with its little Fiat Punto parked outside, into Sneem village. The Riverside Café, halfway through the village, is a great place for toasted sandwiches, mugs of hot tea and sticky chocolate cake!

The hike is approximately 19km and is suitable for most abilities. Waterproofs, walking boots and a map are needed.

This Saturday night I have another guided night ascent of Carrauntoohil scheduled, with some places left available, if you’re interested in something a little more challenging!

Click here for more details

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